Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may affect osteoporosis risk, depending on the dose.




Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may have an added benefit, or risk, depending on the dose. New research suggests that a low dose of statins may protect against osteoporosis, but that high doses may increase the risk for the bone-damaging condition.


Austrian researchers searched a database of patients hospitalized over two years and found 353,502 who used statins. Of these, 11,701 had a diagnosis of osteoporosis. They compared them with 7,543,947 people who had not taken statins, of whom 68,699 had osteoporosis. The study is in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.


Osteoporosis was more than three times as common in people who took statins. But taking 10 milligrams a day or less was associated with as much as a 60 percent reduced risk of osteoporosis, depending on the type of statin. Yet for five of the six types of statins tested, the risk of osteoporosis increased with the size of the dosage.


The senior author, Dr. Alexandra Kautzky-Willer, a professor of medicine at the Medical University of Vienna, said that these results do not mean that statin users should stop their medicine. But, she said, those at high risk for osteoporosis — women and older people, for example — should take particular care to monitor their bone health.


“Reaching the LDL target is the most important thing,” she said. “You should never stop or switch statins because of the risk of osteoporosis.”